– By Sooz Webb
Sometimes it takes a weird turn of events to make us realise what an annoying arsehole we are. Sure, we have the everyday pretence that our true self is a charming character, who’d buy anyone a coffee and captivate with delightful conversation. But in reality, if we got an Elseworld-esque opportunity to meet ‘the real me’, how would we react? Personally, I’d probably freak out and run away. Hey, I’m not afraid to admit I’m a huge cowardy custard. There are just some things you don’t wanna know… Before you grow concerned that I’m having some sort of existential meltdown, fret not. It’s lead characters Chris and Ricky who get the chance to find themselves, in wibbly-wobbly found footage flick RWD.
Two men. Two cameras. A creepy woods. Sound familiar? We think we know it all when it comes to the recovered film genre these days. And to a certain extent we do, as formulas we’re well versed in always seem to be followed. It’s in this way that we’re lulled into a false sense of security by the creative team of Matt Stuertz and Adam Hartley. Taking the phrase ‘two-hander’ to a whole new level in this project, they co-write, co-star, share tea making duties, and generally fill all positions in what can only be described as an independent film in the fullest sense of the word.
We’re introduced to the characters of Chris and Ricky, two young dudes who co-host their own web series Ghost Goofs, on the hunt for a spirit with a penchant for cannibalism. Following The Blair Witch Project almost to the letter, they stumble about the woods, document the journey and lark about, trying their hardest to prank each other, should the moment present itself. Perfect for establishing character of course, but also a clever diversion to the plot’s unexpected deviation. Suddenly the film veers off course, to tread it’s own reality bending path, sticking it’s middle finger up at us while saying ‘fooled you, suckahs’, much like its two protagonists might. This change of pace reels you in and keeps you guessing right up until…well I’m still puzzling over it now to be honest. There’s no real resolution, it ends incredibly ambiguously. And that’s okay. Ambiguity is a good thing. It’s refreshing when your imagination is engaged while watching a film. Unfortunately however, the mind blowing plot point is squandered by two incredibly irritating characters, tarnishing the initial wow factor. We’re left feeling frustrated, as this film could be so much more than it chooses to be.
You see, Chris and Ricky chance upon some sort of time portal, allowing them to meet alternate versions of themselves, from within their timeline. Instead of making contact, or trying to rectify the situation, they decide to prank their erstwhile incarnations, in increasingly malicious ways. These lads, who we’ve built up a fondness for through their goofball friendship, suddenly transform into the douchiest, annoying gits, leaving an incredibly sour taste in your mouth. If the underlying message was intended to be ‘the only monster you should fear is yourself’, then they did a sterling job. Chris and Ricky hide their sadistic tendencies with a mask of affability, and it takes zero provocation to experience their cruelty.
Of course, if your present self is a mean son of a bitch, then your past self inevitably shares the same attribute. Especially if someone’s devoted time to freaking them out and pissing them off. Faster than the boys can say ‘Hey, this is fun’, the doppelgangers prove that vengeance is in their DNA, and Chris and Ricky find themselves up shit creek without a paddle. Things get dark and sinister very quickly, although our prevailing feeling is that the boys brought this all on themselves. We have little time to build back any sympathy for the original pranksters, leaving us disillusioned and exasperated as the film closes.
Stuertz and Hartley are two incredibly creative and talented filmmakers, with a passion for the medium that clearly shines through their work. Hugely original, the concept of this movie is it’s strength, and any frustrations are overwritten by how genuinely enjoyable it is. With a little spit and polish, they’re sure to build on the past, with a clear vision for the future. I for one look forward to seeing what they come up with next.
– By Sooz Webb